Does the license for a tattoo belong to the artist who designed it or the individual on whose physique it seems?
That was the query a federal decide took up final week in a landmark copyright lawsuit introduced by a tattoo artist whose designs appeared on NBA gamers whose likenesses have been reproduced in a online game.
In 2016, the tattoo firm Strong Oak Sketches sued Take-Two Interactive, a online game writer that’s behind the NBA2K sequence of video games, for the unauthorized copy of its tattoo designs on LeBron James and two different NBA gamers.
The US district court docket decide got here down on the facet of the online game firm, writing that the “tattooists essentially granted the Gamers nonexclusive licenses to make use of the Tattoos as a part of their likenesses.”
Strong Oak’s lawsuit made headlines when it was first filed, each due to the high-profile names concerned, and due to the novelty of the difficulty at hand. Even James himself weighed in: “I at all times thought that I had the best to license what I appear like to different individuals for varied merchandise, tv appearances, and different kinds of artistic works, like video video games,” he mentioned in a court filing in 2018.
The decide in the end agreed with James when she “successfully determined that the best of the athletes to license their likeness was not enslaved by the copyright pursuits of these artists that had inked the athletes,” Amelia Brankov, a copyright lawyer not concerned within the case, instructed Artnet Information.
Additional, the decide argued that as a result of the replicated designs into consideration might solely be discovered on three of the 400 gamers within the recreation, and since the likenesses of the tattoos have been lower than a tenth of the scale of the real-life tattoos, copyright infringement didn’t apply.
Whether or not or not the choice will influence future instances on physique artwork remains to be to be seen, however Brankov notes that there are a number of different pending instances in opposition to online game publishers that pertain to tattoos.
“Whereas different courts aren’t obligated to comply with her reasoning, [this judge’s] determination could possibly be a harbinger of dismissals in different instances,” Brankov says.
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